Category Archives: Rants

Sometimes you just gotta go off…

Why I Hate Smartphones

Aside from the fact that I believe that cell phone carriers and makers are basically gouging everyone with their high prices and ridiculous monthly fees, wanna know why I really hate smartphones? It’s because now, more than ever, smartphone manufacturers seem to be coming out with new models every week but most of us are locked into two year contracts with no easy way to upgrade. Carriers constantly change their phone lineups as manufacturers come out with the latest and greatest so the phone you buy today may be behind the curve six months from now. Granted the phone you buy today should be more than sufficient to carry you for a couple of years at least, but should some cool new hardware come out months from now you have no way to simply upgrade without incurring some extra costs. WTF? Why can’t the two year contract include changing hardware whenever you like for some very small fee? The carriers still make their monthly vig and by giving customers extra options and flexibility they would probably gain customers which would offset the hardware costs. Plus, it’s not like the big carriers are hurting for money the last time I checked.

iPhone, iOS, Android, Gingerbread, FroYo, Ice Cream, 3G, 4G, 4Gs, LTE, CDMA, EVDO,  Samsung, HTC, Nexus, Motorola, LG, jailbreaking, rooting, how in the cell is anyone supposed to keep up? Obviously the big news in the cell phone business last week was that Verizon got the iPhone and many new smartphones  debuted at CES. This actually affects me since my piece of shit cell phone is approaching three years of age, has a crappy interface, and a battery that lasts about a day between charges. So now I’ll most likely be shopping for a new phone but what in the world do I want? Both iPhone and Android users have devoted followers so trying to find strong, unbiased evidence online of which one to pick is near impossible. Reading phone reviews on tech sites is like listening to nerds debate whether Star Wars was better than Star Trek.

Why can’t cell phone carriers allow you to test drive a phone for a week before you lock yourself into yet another two year contract? When I’m in a store playing with the demo models, I have no idea if I’ll get good reception at home, work, or wherever I go. I can’t tell if with repeated use the phone will slow down or the battery charge will last as long as I need it to. Cell phones have become ubiquitous and are more powerful than ever, yet we’re all stuck with the same ridiculous choices and forced to make guesses when laying out thousands of dollars. How do you feel?

Email – Abandon the Subject Line

You may think that emails have a subject line so that you will know what the email is about. You’re wrong. Emails have a subject line so you can ignore them.

Why Do Emails Even Need a Subject Line?

I’m sure the original intent of emails having a subject line was so that the recipient would be able to tell what the message was about before reading it. Kind of a courtesy to ease you into this new technology. However, as I was driving around today I came to the realization that the subject line is no longer used for that. It’s devolved into a way to quickly determine whether to read, ignore until later, or delete an email.

Snail mail, email’s old fashioned, physical world counterpart, doesn’t have a subject line. When you get a piece of mail,  you can (almost always) easily see who it’s from, but there’s no one line summary on the envelopment as to what’s inside. When grandma sends you a letter in the mail, there’s no synopsis printed on the outside that would tell you the contents are really a thank you note for the lovely Spanx you bought her for her birthday (wouldn’t that be useful). Instead, when you get a piece of snail mail, you open it based on who it came from. So while email is considered to be the electronic version of snail mail, it isn’t, but it’s close. Email comes with some extra information that today has very little value. When you receive email, you’ll open/ignore/delete it based on where it came from and not based on the subject line. Oh, and not to go off on a tangent, but forget about importance. Does anyone open email based on what the importance level is?

Pointless Subject Lines

I can’t remember how many emails I’ve received where the subject line is “Hey” or “Re:”, usually because whoever sent it entered nothing in the subject line or entered something meaningless because whatever mail program they were using forced them to enter something. This is just another reason why subject lines are no longer needed. Now you’re probably saying something like, well how can I tell email messages apart from one another if they’re from the same person on the same day if they don’t have a subject line? Well how would you tell a bunch of letters from the same person if you received them the same day? That’s right, you’d organize them. Same for email. Folders, tags, and labels are far better at organizing (gasp!) your email then simply letting them clog up your inbox and relying on the subject lines to differentiate them. It would be nice to be able to rewrite the subject line based on what I thought the real subject of the email was about. Then instead of having an email from Ted in my inbox with the subject of simply “Meeting”, I could change it to “Looking to suck an hour out of your valuable time on Friday, interested?”.

So let’s face facts here. The subject line of email has gone from concise summary to white noise in 20 years. We continue to hold on to this vestigial organ simply because we don’t like having to organize the email we receive. Isn’t it time for something better?

The Nastiest Coffee I’ve Had In A Long Time

Coffee drinkers tend to stick to the same type of coffee once they find something they like.  I happen to be a Dunkin Donuts fan while my wife likes $tarbuck$. I’m not a heavy coffee drinker by any means; in fact I don’t have more then a half dozen cups a week. I usually just get regular coffee, but today I was in a fall mood and decided to try their new caramel apple latte. Sounded good. I like latte. I like caramel apples. Turns out this was the nastiest coffee I’ve had in a long time. It tasted like someone took a little apple juice and mixed it with strong coffee, added some fake caramel flavor and topped it off with whipped cream. Nasty from start to finish. Not as good as coffee, not as good as apple cider. Not as good as sour milk. I’m not sure what I expetced. Maybe something closer to like $tarbuck$’ caramel apple cider, but as soon as this disgusting concoction hit my lips I nearly did a spit take.

Just my two cents.

Farewell Digg

About a week ago Digg.com unveiled its latest redesign (“version 4.0“) along with some changes in the way the site works. I first noticed this when I went to check Digg’s mobile website and saw that it looked like something was broken. Little did I know that the entire site had changed, and as many people feel, changed was for the worse.

If you’ve never heard of Digg, what Digg originally was was a tech-oriented news aggregation site. Users submitted links to tech stories and stories got dugg up or buried based on their popularity, with the most popular stories making it to Digg’s homepage. In the beginning, Digg only had 14 categories: apple, deals, design, gaming, hardware, links, linux/unix, mods, movies, music, robots, security, software, and technology. It was a great place to learn about and spread news of cool tech stuff. Almost anyone with a link to an interesting story (including me) could get it promoted to the front page. Over the years Digg slowly evolved into more of a social news aggregation site that covered topics other than technology (see below) and along with it’s growth in popularity came abuses to the system. Users found ways to game the system, and advertisers used it as a way to promote their products and services. For the most part, we, the users, of Digg, were able to tolerate the various abuses that crept in. That is up until now. Continue reading Farewell Digg

Msnbc.com’s Weird Redesign

If you’re a regular visitor to msnbc.com you may or may not have noticed the recent changes to their website. At first it appears as if there were only minor cosmetic changes to the header of the page but upon closer inspection you’ll notice something else – a ridiculous choice of content placement.

The first time you visit the page you see what appears to be a normal home page

Notice that the vertical scroll isn’t at the top of the page? It’s almost imperceptible and in fact, I didn’t notice it for a week. Why does this happen? Scroll up the page and you’ll see that msnbc.com now has a large chunk of content sitting up above what appears to be the normal top of the page. It wasn’t until I saw a link where some of the old navigation used to be that said “Where’s my navigation? We’ve moved it to the top” that I noticed this big change.

So I have to ask why would you redesign a page and place a large chunk of important content up above where the visitor will see when a page loads so that they have to scroll up to see it? This just seems completely counter intuitive to web navigation. Visit a news site and then scroll up to read the headlines? That’s like opening the New York Times and then finding that the top stores section was folded down behind the front page.

Msnbc.com explains this change by saying “We’ve moved the news menu to the top of story pages and made it easier to see what’s happening across the site. When you first get to a story, you’ll see sections and shows displayed across the top of the page. Below is the name of the section you’re in and a search box. Scroll up to see top headlines, slideshows, video and hot topics. Roll over a section name to see more from that section and click on a section name to go there.” Scroll. Roll. Click. Are they serious? Is it just me?